May 15, 2014 — A Louisiana bill (HB 369) that would have required public schools to offer sex education failed 3-10 in the state House Education Committee on Wednesday, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports (Sentell, Baton Rouge Advocate, 5/14).
The vote marked the third year that the state House has failed to advance the legislation, authored by Rep. Patricia Smith (D), according to the AP/WWL (AP/WWL, 5/14).
Louisiana public schools are permitted but not required to teach sex education. The bill would have mandated that schools offer "age appropriate" instruction in grades four through 12 on human sexuality; the benefits, potential risks and proper use of contraceptives; and how students can make "responsible decisions about sexuality and relationships."
Under the bill, schools would have had to teach that abstinence is the best way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and they could not have advocated for abortion. The bill would have allowed parents or guardians to submit a written request that their children not participate in the lessons (Baton Rouge Advocate, 5/14).
House Panel Advances Student Survey Bill
In related news, the committee on Tuesday vote 7-6 to advance legislation (HB 393) that would add questions about sex-related risk behaviors to an existing student behavior survey, the AP/Washington Times reports. The bill, also by Smith, now goes to the full state House for consideration.
The measure would authorize the state Department of Education to add nine questions on sexual health to the survey.
Smith compared the new questions to surveys on teen drug use that have been used in prevention efforts. She said asking about sexual health could help the state reduce teen pregnancies and STIs.
Meanwhile, opponents argued that the state's current ban on including sex-related questions protects parents' rights to educate their children on such matters (Langlois, AP/Washington Times, 5/13).